Spitting Incident During Treefort Takes Temperature of Library, Development Debates 

- The Main Library Project has been a source of tension between the City of Boise and critics, but library officials say that tension was not behind a spitting incident over the weekend during Treefort Music Fest. -  - CITY OF BOISE
  • City of Boise
  • The Main Library Project has been a source of tension between the City of Boise and critics, but library officials say that tension was not behind a spitting incident over the weekend during Treefort Music Fest.
The weather this year during Treefort Music Fest was mild, but as the festival progressed the ongoing community conversation over the Main Library project was still white-hot. Here's one example from a social media post, later made private, from Library Director Kevin Booe:

Yesterday, someone spit at a library employee doing his/her job conducting a service survey at Treefort. This is not typical Boise behavior and I'm very embarrassed and ashamed that someone from my community would do this. 

Later in the post, Booe called on two Boise groups critical of the Main Library project and other major capital developments—Vanishing Boise and Boise Working Together—to "disavow this type of repugnant behavior against a devoted public servant."

"The employee notified me and told me about it. I was a little angry. Nobody should be treated that way. I think the rudeness of the incident really sparked my anger so to speak, and that's why I posted it," Booe told Boise Weekly.

Following an inquiry, Booe learned later that the March 23 spitting incident was likely unrelated to those groups, or even the library project—some speculated that the survey-taker's attacker was inebriated—but what transpired afterward speaks to a mounting concern about the atmosphere surrounding Boise's growth.

"I think you have to look at it holistically. It's not any one project. It's a symptom of growth and how it's being handled," Booe said. "I'm not only speaking as a library director, but I'm speaking as a longtime Boisean. It's just gone too far."

The Main Library project is one of the most contentious issues in Boise, with critics saying the $85 million construction project is too costly, out of step with Boise's aesthetic, or outright unnecessary. It's not alone on their hit lists, either: A proposed sports complex, a bike skills park, the Boise Kind initiative (which officially kicked off during Treefort) and the problem of affordable housing have all drawn intense ire from some quarters. City spokesman Mike Journee had this to say about what he sees as an escalation in behavior and rhetoric around certain hot-button issues:

"Opponents are taking this to a higher level, and that's unfortunate, especially around the same weekend when the mayor is launching this Boise Kind initiative, which is a direct reaction to this kind of vitriol that we see happening all across sour society today."

Library officials have learned that the spitting incident probably had nothing to do with those tensions, but there is already a track record of public disagreement over the direction the city is taking spilling over into unsavory behavior. In early 2019, businessman and Concerned Taxpayers of Boise member Bill Ilett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge after an altercation outside the city council chambers with Capital City Development Corporation Executive Director John Brunelle. Additionally, in early 2019, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter reminded attendees at a public hearing on relocating The Cabin literary center not to make verbal personal attacks against public officials.

Booe said that since posting his concerns on social media, he has received some communication denouncing the spitting, and he apologized to anyone who may have misconstrued his own comments as an attack against the groups he named in his original post. He added, however, that it's important to maintain civility even in trying times.

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"I appreciated [the feedback] very much. Some of these folks have been very rude, some would say hostile. But many of them are very good people, and I certainly like those people very much and they have their right to exercise the civic process. That's not what this is about," Booe said. "I apologize if anyone has misconstrued my statements. Some of us who have been around for a long time need to call people out for rude and bad behavior."
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